Juicy, Cuban Inspired Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}

By Amanda Paa – Updated April 8, 2022
4.50 from 8 votes
Pork shoulder (or uncured ham steak) is rubbed with garlic and herbs, then marinated in citrus juice to create this incredible Cuban Pulled Pork. Whether you make this pulled pork in the oven or slow-cooker, the meat just shreds apart after cooking, making it perfect for tacos, burrito bowls, or sandwiches.
Jump to Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Take-out dinners are rare in our house, but we do love Chipotle bowls for a quick and healthy meal when life gets in the way. In fact, the servings are so big that we often are able to order once, eat twice.

I knew last week was going to be busy, so I thought I’d make lentils, rice and roasted vegetables, then buy a couple pounds of carnitas (braised pork) from Chipotle to make our own bowls as needed. A quick call was met with a voice that said, “No miss, we don’t sell any of our meats separately”.

I took that as a sign — it was time for me to learn how to my own juicy, tender, pulled pork.

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork {ingredients for the rub}
uncured ham steak marinating in a pan

A little internet scouring on pork recipes, cut of meat, and marinade versus rub helped me create a plan, but in the end, I owe my success to the farmer once again.

Many of the recipes I researched used a pork shoulder roast, so I turned to my favorite farmers at the St. Paul Market. They take so much pride in pasture-raising all of their animals (chickens, cows, and pork), a very important quality to me when buying meat products. I make this juicy and tender pork chop recipe with their pasture-raised pork too.

As I reached into the cooler to grab the pork shoulder I sheepishly asked, “This is the best cut for shredded pork, right? The kind so good, the juices spill out when you bite into tacos made with it?”

And at that moment I was given a lesson in the slow-braised, juicy wonder that comes from using what butchers refer to as uncured, fresh ham steak, fresh picnic ham or a leg steak (as if all the names aren’t confusing enough).

Juicy, Citrus Shredded Pork, slow-cooker option {paleo, gluten-free}

Not that you can’t use a pork shoulder, but here are the three main reasons to use a fresh ham steak:

1. A fresh picnic ham always has the bone-in, imparting a treasure trove of flavor as it roasts, whereas a pork shoulder is often bought boneless.

2. Often you’ll buy a 5 pound pork shoulder and when you get it home you realize it’s got a 3 pound fat cap and just 2 pounds meat. That definitely keeps it juicy, but you’re not left with a lot of end product. The uncured ham steak has a nice piece of fat on the outer edge and great marbling throughout, giving you juicy meat and a lot of it. 

3. A fresh picnic ham will give you large, evenly sized “shreds” of pulled pork because it has fewer sections of meat running throughout the cut. A pork shoulder has more webs of fat and muscles because it’s cut from a different part of the animal, so the shreds will sometimes be large, sometimes small. Not a huge deal, but I like consistency.

cuban pulled pork shredded with a fork.

Cuban Pulled Pork Inspiration

Armed with the right cut, I set out to make a Cuban inspired version of pulled pork, traditionally called Lechon Asado. This is a slow-roasted pork shoulder marinated in mojo, a marinade made from orange, garlic, onion, oil, and herbs. Lechon is particularly popular in the Spanish-speaking world, which consists of Spain and its former colonies.

Taking that inspiration, I covered the fresh ham steak with a rub of smashed garlic, oregano, cumin and sea salt, then marinated it overnight with fresh orange and lime juice.

Why Sear Pork Before Roasting It

Searing the ham steak is preferred because it creates browned edges that keep some of the moisture in, but if you’re strapped for time, you can go without. I did this in a large dutch oven, then put it straight into the big oven to roast away for 6 hours – a one dish win. (Alternatively, a slow-cooker will work too!)

The aroma will mesmerize you as this pork slow-roasts. And after 6 hours, you barely even have to use a fork. Maybe I should have titled the recipe, “Self-Shredding Pork“.

It just falls apart, so juicy and packed with zing. Eat as is, or in whatever way you fancy, like tacos, atop polenta, a gluten-free pizza, or one of my favorites, these Wholesome Lentil Protein Bowls.

Cuban Pulled Pork & Rainbow Lentil Bowls

More Pork Recipes:

Save This Recipe Form

Want to save this recipe?

Enter your email below & we’ll send it straight to your inbox. Plus you’ll get more great recipes and tips from us each week!

cuban pulled pork shredded with a fork.

Juicy, Cuban Pulled Pork {slow-cooker option}

Rubbed with citrus, garlic, and herbs, this slow roasted cuban pulled pork is juicy and just shreds apart. Use a pork shoulder or fresh picnic ham to make this easy meal.
4.50 from 8 votes
Prep Time :15 minutes
Cook Time :6 hours
Total Time :6 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 6
Author: Amanda Paa



  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons olive oil divided
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed citrus juice, half from oranges and half from limes
  • 3 1/2 pound fresh uncured ham steak (also referred to as fresh picnic ham or leg steak), or you can use a pork shoulder roast if that's all you can get your hands on


  • Using a mortar and pestle, crush cumin seeds until finely ground. Add garlic to the mortar and pestle, then pound until the garlic and cumin have made a paste (Alternatively you could use 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin and 3 minced cloves garlic if you do not have access to mortar and pestle. The flavor will not be as strong, but still very good.) Stir in the oregano, ground oregano, sea salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Rub this mixture into the pork shoulder really well using your hands.
  • Place pork into a large ziploc bag and pour in citrus juice. Seal, then massage a bit to work the juice throughout the pork. Place bag in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 6 hours, best if overnight.
  • After it has marinated, preheat oven to 225 degrees F or turn on slow-cooker to low. Then heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large dutch oven to medium high (something big enough so that the meat can lay flat inside it). Sear pork shoulder on both sides for 4 minutes, until slightly browned.
  • Add leftover citrus juice from the bag to the dutch oven, then place in oven, covered, and roast for 6-8 hours, basting with its own juices every 2 hours. OR you can add the seared pork and remaining citrus juice from bag into the slow-cooker and roast on low for 6-8 hours, basting with its own juices every 2 hours. When done roasting, shred the pork in its own juices and transfer to a container.


Searing the ham steak is preferred because it makes nice browned edges that keep some of the moisture in, but if you’re strapped for time, you can go without. Just be sure to braise the meat with the juices as you go.

Did you make this?

tag @heartbeetkitchen on instagram and hashtag it #heartbeetkitchen

August 30, 2015


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Jessica Hill

    5 stars
    I’ve been making this a few years now and it’s a favorite of ours! We eat it many different ways. My husband likes his over cilantro lime rice with pinto beans, or sometimes in corn tortillas as tacos. I prefer it with pineapple jalapeño coleslaw!

  2. Chris

    Great recipe absolutely loved it. Made a 4lb pork shoulder cooked at 225 for 7 hours to a internal temp of 200 degrees. The flavor and texture were phenomenal. One thing I did different was after it was cooked and I removed it from the oven I wrapped it in thick aluminum foil then wrapped that in a towel for 1 hour to let it rest. Thank you so much I now have a go to recipe for oven cooked Cuban pulled pork. I also used your pork to make Cuban pressed sandwiches to which my wife said were the best Cuban sandwiches she had ever had, it was the pork.

    • Amanda Paa

      so good to hear you liked the recipe, Chris! and thanks for the tip on letting it rest for awhile.

  3. Kari

    Thank you Amanda for your response. Today when I was at the market I asked if they could order for m e.
    The guy did not even know what the cut was but said he could order it and get it in a week.

    I am going to try the local small market near me. It sounds like you live more in the country than I do. Lucky you. I live in a big city of Los Angeles County California. Well not really in Los Angeles city but in a tiny mile square town to the west of Los Angeles City near the coast in Hermosa Beach. in So Cal.
    I can not wait to try this.

  4. Kari

    I have been searching the internet and the best websites all recommend the picnic bone in ham.
    My question is where can I get it. We have large chain grocery stores here and I do not know of a real butcher here. The ones at the grocery store I do not trust to order one and save it for me.

    Did you get yours by special order somewhere?
    I am hoping that you answer me because I have been wanting to make this for a long long time. There is a Cuban restaurant here that I love but we can not go there every day.

    • amandapaa

      hi Kari! i got mine from a farmer at the St Paul Farmers Market. If you’re able to go directly to a farmer, they should be able to get you the picnic bone in ham!

  5. Tanya Erntson

    I’m so excited I found this post. We got a 1/2 pig a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t realize the ham would be uncured. I made a ham and of course it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of them… Until now! Now I can’t wait to make this recipe. Thank you! You saved the day!

    • Amanda Paa

      Great Tanya! I’m so glad you found this so you can enjoy your uncured ham. And you’ll be able to make so many meals out of. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Sybilla storm

    Guess what I am marinating now, since I saw your post yesterday. Hardly have enough patience to marinate it that long…. Cant wait for the smell when its in the oven. Never mind the end result!!

    • Amanda Paa

      oh teriffic! isn’t that smell amazing? hope you enjoy the pork. :) xo

  7. Allyson

    I love the quality of meat at Green Machine! They always have wonderful stuff. Heading to the Farmer’s Market this weekend. I’ll definitely be stopping by there and putting this one on my menu for the week. Thanks for such a delicious looking recipe!

  8. Kathleen W.

    I made this over the weekend and it was delicious and made the house smell wonderful ! I used the last ham roasts that I had in the freezer from our 1/2 hog we got last year. Thank goodness we have another 1/2 coming next month ! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

    • Amanda Paa

      so glad to hear Kathleen! thanks for sharing your joy, and cheers to more great dinners.

  9. aida mollenkamp

    These look gorgeous, Amanda!

  10. Rebecca | DisplacedHousewife

    This looks so delicious Amanda!!!! I can’t wait to try this one…it’s perfect for fall! xo

    • Amanda Paa

      yes, comfort food for sure! and warms up the house :)

  11. Sharon @ What The Fork Food Blog

    I love that tip to use the uncured ham steak! I’m not sure I’ve even seen one but I know I haven’t been looking. I’ll definitely try that the next time I make pulled pork :)

  12. Tessa | Salted Plains

    Speaking directly with the farmers about their food really makes the whole cooking and experience that much better! I am so excited about this pulled pork and your instructions make it manageable and non-fuss. Looking forward to trying this, Amanda! xo!

  13. Kathryn

    This is exactly the kind of food that I love to eat (but so rarely make at home) so your primer is super useful. I love all the flavours that you’ve used here and I can’t wait for the recipe for those rainbow lentil bowls too!

  14. Lauren Gaskill | Making Life Sweet

    When in doubt, always choose carnitas. :) This looks amazing my dear!

  15. marcie

    While I’ve had a picnic ham, I’ve never used it for pulled pork. The reasoning totally makes sense, and I need to get my hands on one for next time! This looks just incredible. :)

  16. Tyler h

    I can’t believe this is the same great golfer that I grew up with. What an amazing article and I can’t wait to try this recipe this weekend. Thank you Amanda

    • Amanda Paa

      :) you just made my day tyler. i hope you are well, miss seeing you! ran into brandon yesterday at the state fair, 3 kids in tow. looks like you are having a great summer, and love seeing all of your success with Running Wealth.

  17. Liz @ Floating Kitchen

    This looks incredible! I would never even think to use an uncured ham steak. A good reminder to always ask our farmers for advice!

    • Amanda Paa

      I’m always quick to look to pinterest first :) but the farmers always know best! Was glad I learned a quick lesson and could share. Thanks for stopping by Liz, xo.

  18. Raia

    I’m awful at making pork, but I can do a slow-cooker! This sounds delish and I’ll have to give it a try. :)

  19. Allison

    This sounds wonderful. Do you know of any other places in Minneapolis+St. Paul besides the farmer’s market that would carry this cut?

    • Amanda Paa

      Hi Allison! I just talked to the St Paul Meat Market (more information & address here: https://www.facebook.com/stpaulmeatshop) and they can get a fresh, uncured ham/ picnic ham if you give them a call and let them know in advance.

  20. Antgioni | A Pinch of Lemon

    What a terrific tip about the cut of pork to use for this! And I too am SO into bowls of all sorts right now!! It is such a great way to use make ahead ingredients for several days worth of meals. And not just lunch and dinner! Such a timely post for the beginning of September as we all get back into our end of summer routines! Thank you, Amanda! It looks scrumptious!

  21. Stephanie

    I’ve been craving pulled pork! Thanks for the Chipotle alternative and all the helpful tips. Can’t wait to make your version!

    • Amanda Paa

      Of course Stephanie – we were definitely happy about the leftovers :) Enjoy!

  22. Sonja

    Amanda, this looks amazing!!! I can’t wait to try it at home. I’ve been thinking of ideas like this that can feed you for a whole week. I’m moving into a place with my boyfriend this week and I know he’d love a big pot of pulled pork.

  23. Hannah | The Swirling Spoon

    The way you have described this meal is giving me serious food envy right now! GREAT tips about how to select and cook the pork too. Also, I’m in love with your photography… <3

    • Amanda Paa

      glad you liked the tips! i feel like the meat world is so hard to navigate sometimes so thought others might be in the same boat. and thanks for the photography comment, i feel the same way about yours! xo